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Social Justice, Intersections in Forms of Social Oppression, Bullying Prevention

Donald Needs to Understand the Difference between Intent and Impact

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Possibly I am simply naïve, but I will give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt that he had only good intentions when contacting Myeshia Johnson, the Gold Star widow of Sgt. La David Johnson killed in Niger, West Africa in an apparent ambush attack by fighters affiliated with ISIS.

Unfortunately, the impact of the President’s phone call further inflamed Ms. Johnson’s grief and deepened her pain when he reportedly said of her husband that “he must have known what he signed up for,” and then did not remember the Sargent’s name.

Myeshia Johnson, who spoke to ABC’s “Good Morning America” stated:

“It made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said it.”

But rather than apologize for any misunderstanding he may have caused, he doubled and tripled down in his denials of stating what Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL) heard and Myeshia Johnson confirmed Trump saying. Instead, he labeled the Congresswoman “wacky,” and in a tweet, virtually called Ms. Johnson a liar:

“I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”

Who has not caused someone pain or anger when stating something or undertaking an action for the best of intentions? How many of us have chosen to apologize under these circumstances? How many of us have become defensive either denying the accusations or attacking the individual for “misunderstanding” or of being “too sensitive”?

Donald Trump’s alleged good intentions gone sour was, indeed, not the only one with national, or even international implications.

Each year, the committee charged with deciding the site for the national Special Olympics Games chooses a different venue. Several years ago, while I served as Associate Professor at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, the committee honored us by choosing our beautiful campus with its state-of-the-art facilities to host the games.

Excited anticipation filled the air months leading up what was to be a massive multi-day event bringing together thousands of special athletes, coaches, family, and friends, along with the international media. Ground crews and volunteers helped to spruce up the campus, signs were posted directing people to the events, and telecommunication trucks spotted the campus feeding directly to news and sports outlets.

Student managers and reporters of the campus newspaper, The Daily, worked diligently to produce a detailed brochure for guests to our town providing a campus map and listing places of interest in the Ames area, including hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, houses of worship, and other vital information.

The day prior to the Games, student volunteers distributed the freshly printed colorful brochure throughout campus and around town. Unfortunately, however, no one seemed to have caught an enormous and what would be referred to by some as an ignorant and unconscionable mistake. Blazing in large bold letters on the cover of the brochure, which was meant for participants and observers at a Special Olympics Games was the title: “AMES FOR DUMMIES.”

When questioned, everyone involved in the project claimed they never thought or imagined that the title would offend anyone. When it was brought to their attention, however, they understood their mistake, and all made a formal and, with some, tearful apology.

Though controversy focusing on our university and on the Games swirled briefly for a day or so, the appropriate manner by which the students responded quickly and decidedly soon brought full attention back to the Special Olympiads and on the festivities.

So Donald, you would do well to take the lead of the students at Iowa State University who, by their actions after their good intentions impacted people in hurtful ways, threw cool water on the flames they unintentionally ignited. You, Donald, seem to make a habit of pouring gasoline on the fires you ignite by your words and actions.

Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

October 23rd, 2017 at 7:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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